There's been an emphasis of placing the car back in the drivers' hands with the aerodynamic makeup of the new Dallara for the Firestone 550 on the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway oval.The aero package changes weren't necessarily set to deter speed, which Alex Tagliani proved in qualifications.Tagliani, driving the No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA Honda, recorded a two-lap average speed of 215.691 mph (48.5695 seconds) to claim the pole position for the 228-lap race June 9 for the second consecutive year. He topped last June's speed (215.186 mph average) by half a mile-per-hour.It was the first IZOD IndyCar Series pole for Bryan Herta Autosport.Dario Franchitti, driving the No. 10 Energizer car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, was second (215.646) -- 0.0102 of a second behind -- and Graham Rahal posted his highest starting position of the season (third, 215.544) in the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car. He'll be joined on Row 2 by Scott Dixon (215.331).Separate tests were conducted in February and May at Texas to set the baseline and confirm the aero package for the high-banked oval. Scott Dixon was quickest of 11 car/driver combinations during the May Open Test at 24.6644 seconds (212.371 mph).INDYCAR last week issued a technical bulletin for the Texas aero package to distinguish it from the one used on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval (the initial oval race of the season):Musts • Rear wing mainplane between minus 5 degree and minus 10.5 degrees • Standard speedway rear wing endplate • Standard rear wheel guardOptional • Two-thirds radiator inlet shutterCan't use • Rear wheel infils • Sidepod top deck • Underwing strakes and sidewallsFront and rear wing wicker up to a maximum of 1/8" height and full span are an area teams can experiment with to add or remove downforce.DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:
The IZOD IndyCar Series will compete in the Firestone 550, a 228-lap race at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. It will be televised live by the NBC Sports Network.***Live timing and scoring reports from the Firestone 550 are available on the Internet at racecontrol.indycar.com.Feature stories, reports, driver quotes and notes will be posted on the INDYCAR media website at media.indycar.com. More detailed information, including media advisories and VNF coordinates are also posted on the media website. Hi-resolution images are available to media at www.indycarmedia.com. Media updates will also be provided on Twitter by following @indycarpr***The following cars will have 10-grid spot penalties for unapproved engine changes following the event at Belle Isle:#14 Conway#78 De Silvestro***Chaperones of 44 students from Devine Intermediate School were happy to oblige (and likely were somewhat disappointed) to stand behind the cameras when impromptu photo ops with Texas racing legends A.J. Foyt and Johnny Rutherford arose in the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock at Texas Motor Speedway.The group from Devine Intermediate School in Devine, Texas (about 20 southwest of San Antonio) visited the track as reward for a school year of reading excellence. Dressed in matching green shirts with "Racing to Read" printed on the front, the students and chaperones followed fifth-grade teacher Kathy Hennessey around the paddock like the Pied Piper."I started doing this in '99 and in 2003-04 INDYCAR really jumped on board, and we've had their support ever since," Hennessey said. "It seems every year it gets bigger and bigger. I'm just trying to get the passion and the love of reading in the kids and back in the classroom. Anything I can do to get a smile on their face and get a good book open is awesome."Hennessey's program requires her students to read at least 30 minutes a day, including weekends and holidays, and complete a log that they submit weekly. Each participant receives a grade, and to reward their weekly progress she hands out racing memorabilia. At the end of the program, which also includes no behavioral issues in school, she selects the group to accompany her on the three-day trip.Student/guardian contributions and year-round fund-raising underwrite the cost of the trip."I have kids that move on to sixth and seventh grade who want to know if they can continue reading for me so they can come back," she said. "As long as I can continue it and instill the love for reading I'm welcome to continue it."The students received a brief, age-appropriate tutorial of race cars with the passenger-relevant engines fueled by E85 and met drivers Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden."All the kids know that the cars go around the track fast, but to get an up-close look and talk with the drivers are lifetime memories we're making," Hennessey said.***Former Firestone Indy Lights driver Travis Gregg, who won the last Firestone Indy Lights race at Texas in 2005, is spotting for Newgarden. Roger Yasukawa is spotting for Takuma Sato and Martin Plowman is spotting for Marco Andretti.***Firestone Racing provided the Firehawk spec used at Kentucky Speedway in 2011 for the Texas race weekend. Each entrant received nine sets of Firestone Firehawks for the weekend.***Katherine Legge is racing at Texas Motor Speedway for the first time this weekend.But her journey to the IZOD IndyCar Series began at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2004 when she participated in a test for female drivers organized by Infiniti Pro Series (now Firestone Indy Lights) team owner Kathryn Nunn.In Europe at the time following a season in British Formula Three and not invited to the three-day session, the 2002 British Racing Drivers' Club "Rising Star" award winner nonetheless arrived at the track with firesuit and helmet in hand.Though it didn't procure a ride in the series, the results caught the attention of the Polestar Racing Group. Legge delivered again during the 2005 Atlantic Championship, winning three races and finishing third in the championship. The next season, she graduated to Champ Car with PKV Racing, and in '07 joined Dale Coyne Racing."It was an amazing experience and I am still grateful for Kathryn giving me the chance to get in the car, since I was not originally chosen for the test," said Legge, who recorded a dozen "get comfortable" laps before the all-car practice session for the Firestone 550. "I believe it gave me the much needed chance to prove I could drive these types of cars here in the United States."Legge returned to Europe to race in DTM touring cars after INDYCAR absorbed Champ Car teams for the 2008 season, but longed to return to the States. Her four-year wait was rewarded in January.The Firestone 550 will be the 34th Indy car start for Legge, who turns 32 on July 12 (28 in Champ Car) and third oval race. It was at the Milwaukee Mile in 2006 where Legge posted her career best of sixth (tied at Long Beach).***Valspar is the primary sponsor on No. 22 Panther/DRR car driven by Oriol Servia this weekend. The car is black with green trim.***Global RallyCross competitor and action sports star Travis Pastrana rode in the Indy Racing Experience Two-Seater today with Mario Andretti. The ride, along with the ride of Andy Bell, was filmed for use on their MTV show "Nitro Circus."TRAVIS PASTRANA: "The whole time I was like, 'Oh no, oh no!' It was awesome, though, I had fun. I actually didn't think it was going to be that exciting, but it was really cool." (About how it compares to NASCAR or Monster Trucks]: "That feels really similar, except for Mario Andretti was driving that time. So that was cool, he's definitely a racing icon and a legend. It has a lot of grip, that's for sure." [On if he wanted to drive]: "I would have loved to have been in the front seat. I tell you what, being in the back seat, he came around the corner and didn't lift, we're wide open and I was like, 'I hope it sticks and nothing that I can do or say right now would change the outcome of this at all.' So that part I don't like, but it was good."IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POLE QUALIFYING REPORT:PEAK Pole Qualifying consists of two warm-up laps followed by a two-lap qualifying attempt. Cars are ranked in order based on the quickest cumulative time. Only one attempt is allowed per car. One-lap qualifying record: Billy Boat, 23.896 seconds, 225.979 (Sept. 1998); Fastest IZOD IndyCar Series lap today: #10 Dario Franchitti, 24.3941 seconds, 214.742 mph (Practice 1).PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING CHRONOLOGY:(Cumulative two laps; times and speeds calculated using a traveling distance of .0894 miles, which corresponds with data registered by on-board telemetry. The green flag is given on the second time by the flag stand.)At 4 p.m., the ambient temperature was 87 degrees with a relative humidity of 36 percent. Skies were mostly cloudy. The track temperature was 123 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.